Dhaka, Sept 14 (UNB) – The 7th times champions, India, will play former champions the Maldives in the much-awaited prestigious final of the seven-nation SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 at country’s premier sports venue Bangabandhu National Stadium under floodlight on Saturday.
The match will kick off at 7 pm Bangladesh time.
Holders India are the only unbeaten team in the ongoing SAFF meet to make their 11th final berths in 12th version, except in 2003, with an inspiring 3-1 victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2nd semifinal to play the final with 2008 edition champions the Maldives, who made the final berth shocking Nepal 3-0 in first semifinal on Wednesday.
In a pre-match press conference at the BFF House on Friday, coaches and captains of both the teams expressed their determination to play their best to win the match.
India coach Stefen Constantine and Captain Subashish Bose said their team are studded with youth players and will play for win.
Maldives coach Peter Segert and Captain Akram Abdul Ghanee said they will try their best to play an entertaining match, saying the need support from local fans.
In the previous four finals in the South Asian Football, the Maldives clinched the crown once in 2008 beating India 1-0 in the final as co-host with Sri Lanka.
The Maldives lost two finals against India in 1997 and 2009 and lost final to hosts Bangladesh in 2003.
India enjoyed upper hand in the both the South Asian and International Football against the Maldives.
In the 11 South Asian Football encounters, India won eight, lost two and one match ended in draw against the Maldives.
In total 18 international encounters, India won 13, lost three and the rest two matches ended in draw.
After a barren first half in the 2nd semifinal on Wednesday, Manvir Singh struck twice and Sumeet Passi netted one for the India while Hassan Bashir netted the lone goal for Pakistan.
Stephen Constantine's India smartly won both of their group matches by 2-0 goals each, first against Sri Lanka and the 2nd against the Maldives.
However, there was a little concern shown by Constantine as the Indian team were not convincing in their wins and should have easily managed to score a lot more goals in these two matches.
Maldives, on the other hand, also had an eventful semifinal as they defeated Nepal 3-0. The Maldivian players looked in great knick as Nepal is no easy team to defeat and to do it with such a margin is commendable. The upcoming final of the SAFF Championship promises to be a nail-biter. The Maldivian side played with tremendous grit and determination to reach the final.
Ibrahim Waheed Hassan scored a brace for the Maldives in the semifinal and he is one player Indian defenders will need to mark closely as he is lethal when given space.
India defeated the Maldives 2-0 in the group stage game but playing in the final is a different ball game all together so it will be interesting to see if the young Indian players -- being led by Subhashish Bose -- can handle the pressure to clinch the trophy.